Hi! I'm Camille Tyndall, and I'm archivist! Here's where I like to share archives news and related tidbits, and sometimes get on my soapbox about the world as it relates to archives and records management. I gladly accept submissions or tips, just shoot me an email at ectyndall@gmail.com

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5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before My Summer Internship

Hello again, friends!  It’s been a while since I updated here, because life has been very busy in the real world; I finished my master’s paper, graduated, and, most exciting, started my new job!  I’m now working at the Southern Folklife Collection in Chapel Hill, NC, working with digital audio files, which is AWESOME.

I’m sure life has been busy for everyone else, too!  For a lot of you students, I’m hoping that my tips helped, and that you’re now starting some exciting internships (I’d love to hear about them!).  I’ve been meeting up with a lot of my friends from school who are now doing internships that wanted to know more about my experiences/get any tips I may have, so I thought I would share some of those with all you interns out there!

  1. Sit up straight.  No seriously, and I promise I’m not trying to be your mother here by saying this.  But a few hours at a time at a desk in class is very different from 20-40 hours a week at a desk, and your back will thank you for being conscientious about your posture.  Not only that, but good posture looks better, and helps you look more confident, which is always a good thing!  To help, take a brief walking break about once an hour, just to get a sip of water or go to the bathroom so you take the pressure off your back, and try some of these exercises here.
  2. Say yes.  Your boss offers to let you sit in on a meeting that sounds dull?  Say yes.  Your program offers a full day workshop on job applications?  Say yes.  Your boss asks you to do something (ethical and legal of course) outside the internship description?  Say yes.  Being open to new experiences means that you have the opportunity to broaden your experience as an intern, and turn a good learning experience into a great one.
  3. Building on “Say yes,” take the opportunity to get to know your coworkers and fellow interns, and not just in your department.  From a purely professional standpoint, you never know when these contacts will come in handy, regardless of what their field is right now.  People know other people, and people change fields.  But from an Oprah-Winfrey-live-your-best-life perspective, the people you meet while interning can make the intern experience an amazing one.  I met people last summer who I am still good friends with and are a constant source of inspiration to me.  I think that they may be some of the brightest, most passionate people I know, and I’m proud that I had the opportunity to work with them.
  4. Pay attention and ask questions.  I had a really embarrassing moment last summer.  I had reached the end of the project, and had gone to my boss to get another assignment.  I don’t remember what he said exactly (it was a year ago!), but I had taken it to mean, “I’m busy right now and don’t know what you need to do, so just take a few minutes to relax until I get a second.”  So I got on my computer and started checking my email.  About 15 minutes later, he approaches me, and apparently what he had meant was “There’s this small side project that involves a lot of fiddling with an internet database I’d like you to work on.” I was mortified!  And I could have avoided it if I had asked questions and made sure we were on the same page.  I’ll say this one again: pay attention and ask questions.
  5. Realize that your internship is temporary.  If it’s a good situation, be very present in the moment and enjoy it fully.  Take pictures (where appropriate and ethical), write a blog to remember it by, exchange email addresses.  Don’t get a big head about your awesome internship, because you have to come back to school/your regular job eventually.  If it’s a bad situation, and they can be bad, remember that it’s only for a few weeks/months.  You can gain a lot of strength from a bad situation, and learn an awful lot about what not to do, which is just as valuable as what to do.  Either way, keeping the experience in perspective is important.

So how many of you are involved in internships?  I’d love to hear your stories and advice!

Top 5 Things I Wish I’d Known When Applying for Summer Internships

Ah the beginning of the spring semester.  As classes begin, and we settle into a new routine for a new semester, many a young archives student’s mind turns to flights of fancy, of meeting, pursuing and winning that one perfect…summer internship.  So I thought I would put together this handy guide to applying to and making the most out of your internship.

Now, I’m only a graduate student myself, so I can’t tell you what the people looking at your applications are looking for.  All I can tell you is what worked for me when I was applying to internships last year, but hopefully you’ll find some of this useful. 

  1. Check your application due dates right now.  Seriously, right now.  I don’t care if you want to finish reading this article, or if you checked before Christmas, check the due dates again, then come back and finish reading.  True story: when I was applying, I checked due dates at the end of fall semester, and the earliest due date I found was late February, including my pie in the sky dream internship.  So, January goes by, and in early February, I recheck my dates as I’m applying for internships.  My dream internship due date had changed, and was suddenly due in less than two weeks, and I still needed to get letters of recommendation and transcripts.  Many panic attacks later, I got the application in on time, but trust me.  Check your dates now.
  2. Related: while you are checking these dates, make some kind of document to keep track of due dates, the method of applying (online form?  Emailing your resume to a person?), and all materials required for your application.  That way you can prioritize based on due dates, check them off as you send them in, and make sure you’re sending the right materials to the right people.  It helps enormously.
  3. Apply to anything that sounds even vaguely related to what you want to do post-graduation.  This isn’t applying for grad school, there are no application fees, so there’s not really much to lose here.  Think it’s a really long shot?  Apply anyway, you may surprise yourself.  Not paid?  Apply anyway, you never know if funding will become available, and applying doesn’t mean you are obligated to accept the position. (I know unpaid internships are controversial…the A&A listserv had quite the discussion on it, and I’m sure you’ve seen it on a few other blogs in the archives online community.  Staying out of that fray…for now!)
  4. Prioritize the internships that you want.  Even though you’re applying for a lot of internships, know which ones you want the most.  This is for a few reasons.  First of all, I really think that passion comes through in your personal essay, and that passion goes a long way.  Second of all, in the best case scenario where you get more than one offer, internship coordinators appreciate a quick response, so if you’ve already prioritized your options, decision making becomes a lot quicker and easier.  The quicker you get back to them, the quicker they can either prioritize your appointment, or figure out who else they would like to offer the internship to, if you turn it down.
  5. Research the crap out of the organizations you’re applying to work with, especially those dream internships.  I really wanted to work at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Archives Center, and knew I wanted to work with them from way back, so I basically stalked their online presence for months, getting to know the organization, the types of projects they worked on, and any other information I could find out in order to make my application as strong as possible.  It turned out pretty well for me; I got offered an internship there, and had a wonderful summer working for them!

Next week, I’ll post my list of things I learned from my internship that would have been nice to know going in.  Happy applying!